As the NBA has grown in popularity globally, many of the stars in the league are taking full advantage of building their legacies off the court. Below, I rank the top 5 NBA stars with successful personal brands.
37-year-old LeBron James is officially a billionaire, according to Forbes. James ranks number one on the Forbes 2022 List of Top 10 Highest-Paid Athletes in the World. Many people think of James and his 4 NBA championships, 2 Olympic gold medals, and 18 NBA All-Star appearances as the greatest basketball player of all time. Regardless of that debate, King James is continuing to build one of the most successful off-court careers of any NBA player, ever.
James joins Michael Jordan as the only billionaire in the ‘basketball world’. Unlike James who is still in his playing career, MJ did not achieve that feat until 10 years after his playing career ended. Though, Jordan played in a different time in the financial world and the athlete endorsement world. James is most definitely a huge beneficiary of the insanely popular NBA shoe and clothing market that MJ pioneered back in the 1980s. On the court, James has the most lucrative shoe deal in the NBA, $32 million per year with Nike.
Among his many off-court business endeavors, James played the starring role in the recent Space Jam movie. He made around $750 million by selling his share of the film production company SpringHill and has invested in multiple upstart gym/athlete training companies. There seems to be no stopping LeBron on or off the court. It will be fun to see how much more James’ off-court success grows when he quits his OTHER job as an NBA star.
Stephen Curry ranks 5th on the Forbes 2022 list of the 10 highest-paid athletes in the world. The 34-year-old recently signed a MASSIVE $240 million contract extension with the Golden State Warriors, who he just led to the 2022 NBA title. That title is Curry’s 4th NBA championship, building his legacy as one of the greatest players to ever play in the NBA. Both on and off the court Curry has been building his globally popular shoe/clothing brand, SC30, with Under Armour.
Off the court, Steph recently ventured into the cryptocurrency and NFT space. He signed an endorsement contract with popular crypto company FTX, which also includes an equity stake with the company. Curry also has his own production company, Unanimous Media. Like James, Curry’s post-NBA playing career looks bright! Some of the NBA talking heads (and rabid Warriors fans) I listen to on the local San Francisco, CA sports talk radio station KNBR 680 have even suggested Steph should entertain running for PRESIDENT OF THE USA!
The 33-year-old, two-time NBA champion Kevin Durant ranks 6th on the aforementioned Forbes 2022 top 10 highest-paid athlete list. KD has the second most lucrative shoe deal among active players in the NBA, $28 million per year with Nike. That is just behind LeBron James, who earns $32 million per year.
While he has been working hard on the court to earn those two championship rings, Durant has also been investing in his off-court wealth in many ways. He has endorsement deals with Coinbase, NBA Top Shot, and WeedMaps. KD has investments in multiple companies including the NFT platform OpenSea. Once his all-time great NBA playing career is over, the time and energy Durant will be able to dedicate to building his business empire will most assuredly pay off.
Giannis Antetokounpo has worked hard to earn his rank as one of the most popular NBA athletes in the world. Dubbed the Greek Freak, many experts consider him the best player in the NBA currently, especially after winning the 2021 NBA title with the Milwaukee Bucks.
Only 27 years old, Giannis ranks among the highest earners on and off the court, especially after recently signing a $228 million contract with the Milwaukee Bucks. Off the hardwood, Giannis has deals and investments with a diverse portfolio of companies including WhatsApp and Google. He is starring in a yet-to-be-released movie, Rise, on Disney+. The 27-year-old is the only athlete in their 20’s on the previously referenced Forbes top 10 list. It will be fun to see how Giannis continues to grow both on and off the court.
Surprisingly, to me at least, Statista lists Russell Westbrook as the 5th highest earner off the court in the NBA in 2021-22, at $30 million. The former NBA MVP Westbrook has endorsement deals with Nike, PepsiCo, Samsung, and more. Westbrook seems to always be in the national media cycle. Whether it was averaging a triple-double during multiple seasons or his recent struggles with the Los Angeles Lakers, who missed the playoffs in 2021-22. It will be interesting to see how the on-court career of 33-year-old Westbrook will impact his off the court endeavors, both now and in the future.
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